History-1997-Set I

Q.1 Explain the inability of the Marathas to establish a strong empire in the 18th century. (5 marks)
Ans. The Maratha kingdom emerged as one of the most important succession states after the decay of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century. It possessed the strength to fill the political vacuum created by the disintegration of the Mughal Empire. But the Maratha sardars lacked unity and program, which were necessary for founding an all -India empire. For instance, a civil war broke out in 1707 at Satara between Shahu and his aunt Tara Bai. The Maratha sardars, each one of whom had a following of soldiers loyal to himself alone, began to side with one or the other contender of the power instead of fighting against a common enemy .

This provided a rift in the process of empire building. Another reason for the weakness of Maratha Empire was their conquest strategy. The conquests outside the Maratha territories was not made by the central army under the control of Peshwas, but by sardars with their own private armies. Later some of these sardars became so powerful and independent that they challenged the Peshwas and did not hesitate to join with the enemies. Some of them carved out their independent states such as the Gaekwads of Baroda and the Bhonsles of Nagpur. The economy of the Maratha Empire was not based on a stable source of revenue from agriculture or trade. Unlike the Mughals, the Marathas depended on loot and plunder to sustain their empire. In the long run, this became a major source of weakness for the Marathas chiefs or the sardars who were assigned to collection of the booty kept the lion’s share for themselves. Due to these reasons, the Marathas were unable to establish a strong empire in the 18th century.

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